Tarshish is located in Mediterranean
Suggested locations of Tarshish

Tarshish (Phoenician: 𐤕𐤓𐤔𐤔TRŠŠ; Hebrew: תַּרְשִׁישׁ Taršīš; Greek: Θαρσεῖς, Tharseis) occurs in the Hebrew Bible with several uncertain meanings, most frequently as a place (probably a large city or region) far across the sea from Phoenicia (modern Lebanon) and the Land of Israel. Tarshish was said to have exported vast quantities of important metals to Phoenicia and Israel. The same place name occurs in the Akkadian inscriptions of Assyrian king Esarhaddon (died 669 BC) and also on the Phoenician inscription of the Nora Stone (around 800 BC) in Sardinia; its precise location was never commonly known, and was eventually lost in antiquity. Legends grew up around it over time so that its identity has been the subject of scholarly research and commentary for more than two thousand years.

Its importance stems in part from the fact that Hebrew biblical passages tend to understand Tarshish as a source of King Solomon's great wealth in metals – especially silver, but also gold, tin, and iron (Ezekiel 27). The metals were reportedly obtained in partnership with King Hiram of Tyre in Phoenicia (Isaiah 23), and fleets of ships from Tarshish.

Tarshish is also the name of a modern village in the Mount Lebanon District of Lebanon, and Tharsis is a modern village in southern Spain.

According to the Jewish Encyclopedia Da'at [he], the biblical phrase "ships of Tarshish" refers not to ships from a particular location, but to a class of ships: large vessels for long-distance trade.[1]

Hebrew Bible

Tarshish occurs 25 times in the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible. References to Tarshish as a location or nation include:

Other ancient and classical-era sources

The 19th-century "World as Peopled by the Descendants of Noah", showing "Tarshish" as the countryside around Tarsus in southeastern Anatolia

Identifications and interpretations

Tarshish is placed on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea by several biblical passages,[9] and more precisely: west of Israel.[10][11] It is described as a source of various metals: "beaten silver is brought from Tarshish" (Jeremiah 10:9), and the Phoenicians of Tyre brought from there silver, iron, tin and lead (Ezekiel 27:12).[11]

The context in Isaiah 23:6 and 66:19 seems to indicate that it is an island, and from Israel it could be reached by ship, as attempted by Jonah (Jonah 1:3) and performed by Solomon's fleet (2 Chronicles 9:21).[11] Some modern scholars identify Tarshish with Tartessos, a port in southern Spain, described by classical authors as a source of metals for the Phoenicians, while Josephus' identification of Tarshish with the city of Tarsus in Cilicia (south-central Turkey) is even more widely accepted.[11] However, a clear identification is not possible, since a whole array of Mediterranean sites with similar names are connected to the mining of various metals.[11]

Mediterranean Sea

According to Rashi, a medieval rabbi and commentator of the Bible, quoting Tractate Hullin 9lb, 'tarshish' means the Mediterranean Sea.[12]

Carthage

The Targum of Jonathan along with several passages of the Septuagint and the Vulgate render Tarshish as Carthage.[2] The Jewish-Portuguese scholar, politician, statesman and financier Isaac Abarbanel (1437–1508 AD) described Tarshish as "the city known in earlier times as Carthage and today called Tunis."[13]

Sardinia

Thompson and Skaggs[3] argue that the Akkadian inscriptions of Esarhaddon (AsBbE) indicate that Tarshish was an island (not a coastland) far to the west of the Levant. In 2003, Christine Marie Thompson identified the Cisjordan Corpus, a concentration of hacksilver hoards in Israel and Palestine (Cisjordan). This Corpus dates between 1200 and 586 BC, and the hoards in it are all silver-dominant. The largest hoard was found at Eshtemo'a, present-day as-Samu, and contained 26 kg of silver. Within it, and specifically in the geographical region that was part of Phoenicia, is a concentration of hoards dated between 1200 and 800 BC. There is no other known such concentration of silver hoards in the contemporary Mediterranean, and its date-range overlaps with the reigns of King Solomon (990–931 BC) and Hiram of Tyre (980–947 BC).

American scholars William F. Albright (1891–1971) and Frank Moore Cross (1921–2012) suggested Tarshish was Sardinia because of the discovery of the Nora Stone, whose Phoenician inscription mentions Tarshish.[14] Cross read the inscription to understand that it was referring to Tarshish as Sardinia.[15] Recent research into hacksilver hoards has also suggested Sardinia.[16]

Hacksilver objects in these Phoenician hoards have lead isotope ratios that match ores in the silver-producing regions of Sardinia and Spain, only one of which is a large island rich in silver. Contrary to translations that have been rendering Assyrian tar-si-si as 'Tarsus' up to the present time, Thompson argues that the Assyrian tablets inscribed in Akkadian indicate tar-si-si (Tarshish) was a large island in the western Mediterranean, and that the poetic construction of Psalm 72:10 also shows that it was a large island to the very distant west of Phoenicia. The island of Sardinia was always known as a hub of the metals trade in antiquity, and was also called by the ancient Greeks as Argyróphleps nésos "island of the silver veins".

The same evidence from hacksilber is said to fit with what the ancient Greek and Roman authors recorded about the Phoenicians exploiting many sources of silver in the western Mediterranean to feed developing economies back in Israel and Phoenicia soon after the fall of Troy and other palace centers in the eastern Mediterranean around 1200 BC. Classical sources starting with Homer (8th century BC), and the Greek historians Herodotus (484–425 BC) and Diodorus Siculus (d. 30 BC) said the Phoenicians were exploiting the metals of the west for these purposes before they set up the permanent colonies in the metal-rich regions of the Mediterranean and Atlantic.[13][3]

Either Sardinia or Spain

The editors of the New Oxford Annotated Bible, first published in 1962, suggest that Tarshish is either Sardinia or Tartessos.[17]

Spain

Rufus Festus Avienus the Latin writer of the 4th century AD, identified Tarshish as Cadiz.[18] This is the theory espoused by Father Mapple in Chapter 9 of Moby Dick.[19]

Some biblical commentators as early as 1646 (Samuel Bochart) read it as Tartessos in ancient Hispania (the Iberian Peninsula), near Huelva and Sevilla today.[2] Bochart, the 17th century French Protestant pastor, suggested in his Phaleg (1646) that Tarshish was the city of Tartessos in southern Spain. He was followed by others, including Hertz (1936).

Phoenician coast

Sir Peter le Page Renouf (1822–1897)[20] thought that "Tarshish" meant a coast, and, as the word occurs frequently in connection with Tyre, the Phoenician coast is to be understood.

Tyrsenians or Etruscans

T. K. Cheyne (1841–1915) thought that "Tarshish" of Genesis 10:4 and "Tiras" of Genesis 10:2 are really two names of one nation derived from two different sources, and might indicate the Tyrsenians or Etruscans.[21]

Britain

Some 19th-century commentators believed that Tarshish was Britain, including Alfred John Dunkin who said "Tarshish demonstrated to be Britain" (1844), George Smith (1850),[22] James Wallis and David King's The British Millennial Harbinger (1861), John Algernon Clarke (1862), and Jonathan Perkins Weethee of Ohio (1887).[23] This idea stems from the fact that Tarshish is recorded to have been a trader in tin, silver, gold, and lead,[24] all of which were mined in Cornwall. This is still reputed to be the "Merchants of Tarshish" today by some[clarification needed] Christian sects.[citation needed]

Southeast Africa

Augustus Henry Keane (1833–1912) believed that Tarshish was Sofala, and that the biblical land of Havilah was centered on the nearby Great Zimbabwe.[25]

Southern India and Sri Lanka

Bochart, apart from Spain (see there), also suggested eastern localities for the ports of Ophir and Tarshish during King Solomon's reign, specifically the Tamilakkam continent (present day South India and Northern Ceylon) where the Dravidians were well known for their gold, pearls, ivory and peacock trade. He fixed on "Tarshish" being the site of Kudiramalai, a possible corruption of Thiruketheeswaram.[26][27][28][29][30][31]

Cilicia

It may, however, refer to Tarsus in Cilicia, where Saul, later Paul, hailed from (Acts 9:11, 21:39, 22:3).

Tarxien

There are several indications that Tarshish could have been located at Malta, where still today a local council is called Tarxien. The pronunciation in the Semitic language of the Maltese people is rather similar to the Hebrew pronunciation of Tarshish (Maltese pronunciation: [tɐrˈʃɪːn]). All megalithic temples from the neolithic epoche of Malta are assigned to the Taxien phase of the island. The inhabitants claim that Tarxien was founded by the Carthaginians.[32]

Controversy

The existence of Tarshish in the western Mediterranean, along with any Phoenician presence in the western Mediterranean before c. 800 BC, has been questioned by some scholars in modern times, because there is no direct evidence. Instead, the lack of evidence for wealth in Israel and Phoenicia during the reigns of Solomon and Hiram, respectively, prompted a few scholars to opine that the archaeological period in Mediterranean prehistory between 1200 and 800 BC was a 'Dark Age'.[33]

Other usage

See also

References

  1. ^ אנציקלופדיה יהודית דעת - תרשיש
  2. ^ a b c d Singer, Isidore; Seligsohn, M. (eds.). "Tarshish". Jewish Encyclopedia.
  3. ^ a b c Thompson, C.M.; Skaggs, S. (2013). "King Solomon's silver?: Southern Phoenician hacksilber hoards and the location of Tarshish'". Internet Archaeology (35). doi:10.11141/ia.35.6. 35.
  4. ^ Torr, Cecil (1895). Ancient Ships. Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–3. Retrieved 18 February 2010. subject:ships.
  5. ^ =K18096 and EŞ6262 in the British Museum and Istanbul Archaeological Museum, respectively
  6. ^ Antiquities of the Jews 1:6§1
  7. ^ Pfeiffer, Charles F. (1966). "Karatepe". A Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology. The Biblical World. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press. p. 336.
  8. ^ Bunsen, C.C.J.; Sayce (1902). Expository Times. p. 179.
  9. ^ Isaiah 23, Jeremiah 10:9, Ezekiel 27:12, Jonah 1:3, 4:2
  10. ^ Genesis 10:4, 1 Chronicles 1:7
  11. ^ a b c d e Negev, Avraham; Gibson, Shimon (2001). "Tarshish". Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land. New York and London: Continuum. p. 494. ISBN 0-8264-1316-1.
  12. ^ "Chabad Tanakh: Rashi's Commentary on Daniel 10:6".
  13. ^ a b Thompson, C.M. (2003). "Sealed silver in Cisjordan and the 'invention' of coinage". Oxford Journal of Archaeology. 22 (1): 67–107. doi:10.1111/1468-0092.00005.
  14. ^ Albright, W.F. (1941). "New light on the early history of Phoenician colonization". Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. 83 (83). The American Schools of Oriental Research: 14–22. doi:10.2307/3218739. JSTOR 3218739. S2CID 163643292.
  15. ^ Cross, F.M. (1972). "An interpretation of the Nora Stone". Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. 208 (208). The American Schools of Oriental Research: 13–19. doi:10.2307/1356374. JSTOR 1356374. S2CID 163533512.
  16. ^ "Tarshish: Hacksilber Hoards Pinpoint Solomon's Silver Source - Biblical Archaeology Society". Biblical Archaeology Society. 2017-07-11. Retrieved 2018-05-28.
  17. ^ Metzger, Bruce M.; Murphy, Roland E., eds. (1991). New Oxford Annotated Bible. annotation on Jeremiah 10:9.
  18. ^ William Parkin - 1837 "Festus Avinus says expressly that Cadiz was Tarshish. This agrees perfectly with the statement of Ibn Hankal, who no doubt reports the opinion of the Arabian geographers, that Phoenicia maintained a direct intercourse with Britain in later ..."
  19. ^ "Chapter 9: The Sermon | Moby Dick | Herman Melville | Lit2Go ETC".
  20. ^ Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, xvi. 104 et seq., Le Page Renouf
  21. ^ Orientalische Litteraturzeitung, iii. 151, Cheyne
  22. ^ Smith, George (1856). Sacred Annals; Or, Researches into the History and Religion of Mankin[d]. Carlton & Porter. p. 557. Heeren fully confirms this view ; shows from Strabo, that the Phenicians not only traded with Spain and Britain, but actually conducted mining operations in the former country; and is so fully satisfied of the identity of Tarshish and Spain ...
  23. ^ Weethee, Jonathan Perkins (1887). The Eastern Question in Its Various Phases. p. 293. The expression is this: "the merchants of Tarshish, with the young lions of Tarshish". Assuming, what we have proved, that England was the ancient Tarshish, and that Great Britain is the Tarshish of Eze. xxxviii. 13, or the chief of both ...
  24. ^ Ezek 27:12
  25. ^ Keane, A.H. (1901). The Gold of Ophir - Whence Brought and by Whom?.
  26. ^ Brohier Richard Leslie (1934). Ancient irrigation works in Ceylon. Vol. 1–3. p. 36.
  27. ^ Smith, William, Sir (1863). A Dictionary of the Bible. the author notes how the Hebrew word for peacock is Thukki, derived from the Classical Tamil for peacock Thogkai((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  28. ^ Ramaswami, Sastri (1967). The Tamils and their Culture. Annamalai University. p. 16.
  29. ^ Gregory, James; Niemeyer, M. (1991). Tamil Lexicography. p. 10.
  30. ^ Fernandes, Edna (2008). The last Jews of Kerala. Portobello. p. 98.
  31. ^ Smith, William, ed. (1870) [1863]. A Dictionary of the Bible. Hurd and Houghton. p. 1441. ((cite encyclopedia)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  32. ^ "Die Himmelstafel von Tal-Qadi/ Tarxien – Wikibooks, Sammlung freier Lehr-, Sach- und Fachbücher". de.wikibooks.org (in German). Retrieved 2023-06-01.
  33. ^ Muhly, J. D. (1998). "Copper, tin, silver, and iron: The search for metallic ores as an incentive for foreign expansion". [In] Gitin, et al. [Eds.] Mediterranean Peoples in Transition: 13th to early 10th centuries BC. In Honor of Professor Trude Dothan. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society. pp. 314–329. OCLC 233987610?
  34. ^ "tarshiysh". Strong's Hebrew Lexicon (KJV). H8658. Retrieved 20 August 2016 – via Blueletterbible.org.
  35. ^ Burke, Aaron (2006). "Tarshish in the mountains of Lebanon: Attestations of a Biblical place name". Maarav.
  36. ^ Reich, Bernard; Goldberg, David H. (2008). Historical Dictionary of Israel (2nd ed.). Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. p. 488. ISBN 9780810855410.
  37. ^ Scholem, Gershom Gerhard; Werblowsky, R. J. Zwi (1973). Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah, 1626-1676. Princeton University Press. p. 419. ISBN 978-0-691-01809-6. Retrieved 25 February 2021.

Further reading